Teens and Sports Supplements

An interesting article was published in the Gazette yesterday regarding teens and protein supplements. It was interesting for two reasons:
1. The newspaper actually spoke to a Registered dietitian who has plenty of experience with sports nutrition- which means the information was credible and
2. It laid to rest the most common misconception about protein supplements: teens (and most people) generally will NOT benefit from eating obscene amounts of protein.

And of course, as is usually the case with nutrition counseling, a young man waltzed into my office that very same day inquiring about protein shakes.

What many people may not realize, is that there is a maximum amount of protein we can store in our bodies. Once our stores are full, we eliminate the extra amino acids and store whats left of the broken-down protein molecule as fat.
Another false claim is that protein builds muscles. Protein does NOT build muscles, but when it is available in adequate quantities, it can help the muscle recover from exercise and grow. Exercise is the only way we can build muscle, and if we do not eat enough protein, we can inhibit that growth.

This brings up another question- how MUCH protein do we need? Well, this all depends on your age, gender and activity level. But if we continue with the same example of a young athlete- they typically need about 1.5g of protein per kg of body weight per day.
So, if my client was 80kg he would need about 120g of protein per day. Knowing that one ounce (or 30g) of a protein rich food (like chicken or beef or beans) contains 7g of protein would mean that my client would need about 17oz of protein rich foods a day. REMEMBER- milk products also contain some protein so meat and alternatives are not the only source!
If one serving of meat is about 21g (100g or the size of the palm of a hand) then he should eat about 5 1/2 servings of meat and alternatives a day. Ideally, one at lunch, one at lunch and one at supper along with 2 or 3 snacks (containing protein) a day containing. Voila- no need to hold your nose and down a protein shake.

Before turning to protein shakes consider this: almost all Canadians eat about double the amount of protein they need to, on a daily basis. Even if you are working out and have higher needs than the average person, you naturally will be eating more protein because you will be eating more calories. Its is carbs that really feed your energy levels- not protein. So if you are looking to stay on top of your game do not leave out the carbs (fruit, grain products and milk products all contain carbs).

The whole topic of protein supplements is quite controversial. However, for the average gym-goer and teen athlete, they are usually unwarranted. If you would like to see if protein supplements are for you, the best thing to do is to speak to a Sports Nutritionist.

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